Winter Feeding Guidelines for Sheep and Goats

Rory Lewandowski, Retired OSU Extension Educator ANR

The number of sheep and goats, especially sheep, has grown in recent years in Ohio. Several of these flocks and herds are pasture-based enterprises and the sheep and goats have limited access to an indoor barn or shed. Both sheep and goats are capable of adjusting to winter temperatures by maintaining a wool fleece or growing a thick, insulating hair coat in the case of goats and hair sheep. In fact, these animals most often prefer to be outside on a winter day, even if they have access to a barn or shed. The caveat to this statement is that the ration must meet the nutritional requirements balanced to the production stage. The energy content of the ration must increase when winter weather results in a temperature condition below the animal’s lower critical temperature. In addition, animals should have access to a shelter to protect from winter winds and resulting wind chill and hair coat animals should have access to protection from rain/sleet, or wet snow events.

Sheep and goats, like all livestock, have a temperature range in which the animal is most comfortable, and provides optimum conditions for body maintenance, and health. The lower boundary of that temperature range is termed the lower critical temperature (LCT). That LCT is dependent upon the animals insulating hair coat and weather conditions. When weather conditions result in temperatures below the LCT, the animal’s metabolism must Continue reading

Falling Leaves Poison with Ease

Haley Zynda, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County

Even though we’re only a couple weeks away from the true start of winter (hard to believe, I know), some trees are still clutching onto their leaves as if the dying foliage will be enough to fortify their soon-to-be bare branches against the frigid temperatures. It’s important to take note of the trees that have leaves yet to fall, especially if you house livestock outside in pastures or sacrifice lots. I’m sure most have heard of the dangers of black/wild cherry limbs and leaves for cattle, but there are several other trees and shrubs that can cause negative impacts on cattle, horses, sheep, and goats.

Wild Cherry. Poisonous to all classes of livestock, wilted cherry leaves and branches can cause prussic acid poisoning, the same poisoning as seen in frosted sorghum-sudangrass. It’s best to remove Continue reading

Lactation Preparations for Small Ruminants

With many producers in the state of Ohio 4-8 weeks away from the beginning of their lambing or kidding seasons, we thought it would be timely to discuss the process of evaluating sound udders and how to prepare your stock for lactation. In Webinar #1 of the 2021 OSU Small Ruminant Webinar Series, Brady Campbell presented on the importance of colostrum and milk production. This ten minute segment focuses on preparing and managing females for the highly demanding time of lactation including nutrition and health management to ensure lambs and kids are off to the best start possible.

Forage Focus: Holiday Leftovers for Livestock

In this episode of Forage Focus, host Christine Gelley reviews how to use holiday leftovers for livestock. From food scraps to greenery, there are right ways and wrong ways to recycle parts of your holiday celebrations for the benefit of the animals in your care. Learn more about items that could be safety shared with pastured livestock and companion animals as treats and habitat enrichment.

Can I Afford to Fertilize my Hay?

Stan Smith, OSU Extension PA, Fairfield County
Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

With fertilizer prices on the rise and reaching levels not seen in years, some are wondering if they can afford to fertilize hay ground. Realizing we can’t starve a profit into livestock, or a hay crop, the answer is simple. We can’t afford not to properly and strategically fertilize a hay crop.

The operative word here is “strategically.” Let’s look at what that word might mean in the coming 2022 hay season.

First and foremost, now more than ever is the time to make sure we have up to date soil tests. We can’t manage what we haven’t measured and knowing the nutrient content of forage fields is critical to knowing which soil nutrients will offer the most return on investment.

Lime has gone up little if any, in price, in recent years. To optimize the efficiency of the fertility we do have

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Designing a Sheep Shed

One of the most common asked questions that I receive on a weekly basis revolves around the topic of indoor housing options for sheep and goats. Unfortunately, resources here in the United States are limited on this subject. Thankfully, other shepherds from around the world have already investigated this need. Although from the perspective on an Irish sheep system, Mr. Edward Egan of Teagasc nicely outlines the top 10 considerations involved in building or refurbishing an existing facility used to house sheep. Because of resources and climatic conditions here in Ohio, not all of the presented information may apply to our producers. However, this video does outline important factors such as feeding and floor space allotments, ventilation, and feeding system that can be used as you begin designing your new system. A word of caution, much of the information is presented in metric measurements, but don’t worry. Pause your video and do the conversions. I think that many of you will find these values of interest as they may be able to be used to improve  your current system. If nothing else, enjoy 10 minutes of pictures capturing alternative sheep production systems.

Water Effects on Livestock Performance

Mark Landefeld, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Monroe County
Jeff Bettinger, Lead District Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Limitation of water intake reduces animal performance quicker and more dramatically than any other nutrient deficiency (Boyles). Water constitutes approximately 60% – 70% of an animal’s live weight and consuming water is more important than consuming food (Faries, Sweeten & Reagor, 1997). Domesticated animals can live about 60 days without food but only about 7 days without water. Livestock should be given all the water they can drink because animals that do not drink enough water may suffer stress or dehydration.

Signs of dehydration or lack of water are tightening of the skin, loss of weight and drying of mucous membranes and eyes. Stress accompanying lack of water intake may need special considerations. Newly arrived animals may refuse water at first due to differences in palatability. One should allow them to become accustomed to a new water supply by mixing water from old and new sources. If this is not possible, then intake should be monitored to be sure no signs of dehydration occur until animals show adjustment to the new water source.

Water requirements are influenced by physiological and environmental conditions Continue reading

Forage Focus: 2021 Ohio Sheep Day Annual Forages Field Walk

Take a virtual walk through a set of annual forage demonstration plots in this month’s episode of Forage Focus. Dr. Brady Campbell- OSU Small Ruminant Extension Specialist and our host- Christine Gelley give background information on the plots established for Ohio Sheep Day, offer ways the forages could be used on farm for small ruminants or other livestock, and share the results of forage quality tests for all 15 annual forages featured in the episode.

Tools to Manage Ewes During Gestation

Rob Zelinsky, M.S., Hubbard Feeds Companion Animal Team
(Previously published online: Hubbard Sheep Solutions)

(Image Source: The Fence Post)

Ultrasound Pregnancy Diagnosis


  • Sell open ewes during inflated cull ewe markets
  • Economical feeding (less over and under feeding)
  • Identify ewes with multiple births and feed accordingly


  • Cost
  • Extra ewe handling during pregnancy

Shearing Continue reading

Winter Grazing: Annual Forages Improve Lamb Growth and Health Parameters

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

Fall is for harvest. Whether directly involved in production agriculture or a consumer of its products, most associate this time of year with combines harvesting soybeans and corn in the field or farm stands filled with pumpkins and apple cider. However, for livestock producers and especially those raising ruminants, harvest looks a bit different. This time period is the final push for grazing corn fodder/stubble, stockpiled forages, or annuals planted in the late summer before environmental conditions force producers off of pasture and into the barn or drylot to feed grain and hay. For those that planned ahead, well done! Each of these options provide high quality feedstuffs that are self harvested by the animal, resulting in a cheaper feed source. For those that weren’t able to sacrifice the land or weren’t prepared for planting, no worries, there is always next year.

Some of you may be thinking, what forages would provide enough nutritional quality to get me through the year? For those that were able

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Optimizing Reproductive Efficiency in Sheep Production with Strategic Nutritional Management

This hour long webinar seems to be quite timely both due to the fact that fall breeding is well under way across the nation as well as many here in the Midwest are fully emerged in fall lambing. Nutrition is key when discussing the benefits and hardships of livestock production. For those that will be joining us for Ohio Sheep Day this Saturday, October 2, I encourage you to take some time to listen to Dr. Richard Ehrhardt as he discusses how to maximize nutritional management to improve reproductive efficiency. At Ohio Sheep Day, we will be discussing alternative forage and feeding options that can be implemented on farm to achieve these needs. We look forward to seeing you then!